Mango, cassava businesses strike new deals at West Africa Connect
Cassava, mango and other producers forged new partnerships at the regional agri-tech event
When Angele Tawari started her food processing business in rural Benin in 2012, she only had $34. More than a decade later, her business processes heritage products like mango, baobab fruit and fonio seeds that are ripe for a regional market, but she still struggles to access finance.
Finding solutions to the financing problems faced by companies like Angele’s Floor was the focus of West Africa Connect 2022, which brought together food and tech businesses from 16 countries.
Tawari linked up with Nigeria-based agri-tech company Kitovu Technology. Together, they plan to expand their footprint in the region by establishing a Kitovu agency in Natitingou, where Angele’s Floor is based in Benin.
Kitovu will include Angele’s Floor in the company’s cooperative financing platform to support its savings, investments, and financial management. In addition, the platform will connect her to a database of targeted customers, investments opportunities, savings, and capital.
“This event has been a great opportunity to showcase my product and collaborate with key partners,” Tawari said. “I am glad that my participation at this event has led to a potential opportunity for me to get access to finance. I look forward to many events like this in future.”
Hers was among more than 90 businesses at the matchmaking event in Ghana’s capital Accra. Representatives from trade promotion organizations, West African business associations, and 25 international buyers also attended.
Seizing opportunities for partnership
Bosun Solarin, the founder of Dasun Integrated Farms Limited, agreed to collaborate in the cassava value chain with Victor Johnson, founder of Lion Food Snack & Beverage Limited in Sierra Leone.
They have agreed to form a group to pool their businesses, looping in three other small businesses based in Burkina Faso, Benin and Ghana to secure international deals.
“Unlike other conferences this event was focused on specific value chains,” Solarin said. “It was an opportunity to interact with other like-minded entrepreneurs. Through this event I am now aware of the strength in collaboration.”
With their broad geographic reach, the businesses will also identify market gaps for potential supply opportunities of cassava flour and other agri-products.
Over 170 such meetings were held during the two-day event, which focused on how tech companies can work with the mango and cassava value chains.
Online participants also viewed the workshops, created digital product catalogues, and scheduled virtual meetings.
Aside from liaising with potential buyers, West African business also established connections among themselves to address supply and demand constraints in the region.
Partners Agriculture Holdings in Ghana and Ouattara Trading based in Cote d’Ivoire discussed taking advantage of the different mango seasons in the countries they operate. Ouattara has agencies in Senegal, where mango is available until October and this provides an opportunity to export to Ghana, where the season ends in June.
“In this season Senegal still has mango, while in Ghana and Burkina Faso it is not available anymore. A connection of this type could go a long way to help us get access to fresh mango fruits all season,” said Abdul Soabir Shaani from Partners Agriculture Holdings. “Although we came here as suppliers, we are becoming buyers ourselves.”
West Africa Connect 2022 was organized by the West Africa Competitiveness Programme (WACOMP) and took place on 20-21 September 2022 in Accra.
The event was held alongside the Economic Community of West African States with support from the West African Economic and Monetary Union, in collaboration with ITC and the UN Industrial Development Organization and financial support from the European Delegation in Nigeria.
Panel discussions on export potential, digitalization, quality, investment, gender inclusion and product certification. Exhibition booths showcased cassava and mango products.
The West Africa Connect platform remained open after the event for companies to continue meeting, matching and trading online at westafricaconnect.com.
The West Africa Competitiveness Programme (WACOMP) aims to support selected value chains at national and regional level to promote structural transformation and better access to regional and international markets, while taking into account social and environmental concerns. Its overall objective is to strengthen competitiveness of West African countries and enhance their integration into the regional and international trading system.